Rodrigo fires Spain into Euro 2020 with late leveller at Sweden
Spain sealed qualification for Euro 2020 with two games to spare on Tuesday after Rodrigo Moreno came off the bench to score a dramatic injury-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Sweden.
The 2008 and 2012 European champions needed only a point in Stockholm to guarantee automatic progress to the finals and Rodrigo ensured they got it, after Marcus Berg had headed Sweden into the lead early in the first half.
Rodrigo's 92nd-minute tap-in sparked jubilant celebrations on the touchline and provided a dramatic conclusion to what had previously been a remarkably smooth campaign for Robert Moreno's side.
They are top of Group F on 20 points after drawing their last two matches, five ahead of Sweden and six from Romania, who missed the chance to take second spot thanks to Norway's Alexander Sorloth snatching a last ditch 1-1 draw in Bucharest.
However finishing ahead of the Swedes, Romania and Norway offers a limited idea of how Spain will fare against Europe's elite.
There remain several question marks over key positions, not least in goal, where David de Gea started but was forced off injured in the second half, a worry for his club Manchester United ahead of their meeting with Premier League leaders Liverpool this weekend.
De Gea appeared to have pulled a muscle in his right leg after making a clearance and was replaced by Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga, who had started Saturday's 1-1 draw Norway in which Spain missed their first chance to make the tournament.
- New era for Spain -
Suspensions for Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets meant there was not a single player in the starting line-up that played in the Euro 2008 and 2012 triumphs, or the World Cup in between.
Moreno is furthering Spain's attempt to usher in a new era and Barca's 16-year-old sensation Ansu Fati could be an option against Malta and Romania next month.
Fati became the second youngest player to represent Spain under-21s on Tuesday night by coming on for the final 10 minutes of Spain's 2-0 win over Montenegro.
For the senior side, Villarreal's Gerard Moreno made his debut up front while Rodri and Inigo Marinez came in for the banned Ramos and Busquets.
Spain made a strong start and should have taken the lead when Thiago Alcantara had only the keeper to beat, but he failed either to finish or find Mikel Oyarzabal waiting for a tap-in inside him.
Rodri and Moreno both went close but Sweden survived and then grew into the game, breaking Spain's rhythm and creating chances of their own.
De Gea made a brilliant diving save to stop Robin Quaison's header flying into the top corner and then a neat touch from Berg saw Emil Forsberg graze the post.
Sweden stayed in the ascendancy after half-time and broke through in the 50th minute as De Gea palmed away Berg's header and then rose to deny Forsberg on the rebound. But the ball spun up from his second save and Berg was well-placed to nod in the opener.
Kepa replaced the limping De Gea on the hour and Spain had some joy from crosses, Moreno and Oyarzabal both going close. But it looked like Sweden would hold on until Rodrigo, on for Thiago, struck.
Alexander Isak's clearance only fell to the feet of Fabian Ruiz at the back post and he took a touch before lashing his shot across goal. Rodrigo, three yards out, could not miss.
© 2019 AFP